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Penguins injury update: Letang expected back for playoffs

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The Penguins fate looks sealed for the first round but luckily there's some encouraging news about their star defenseman.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It's difficult to endure tough stretches, but the next 10 days are basically exhibition season for the Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens are pretty much locked into the 2/3 battle and probably the 3 part of that as well, meaning that they won't have home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

However, there is some good news on the horizon:

Evgeni Malkin also couldn't resist yesterday during the team picture getting a couple of stop-starts in for his edge-work. He should be back sooner than later too.

Plus Jake Guentzel and Ron Hainsey dressed in regular practice jerseys too. The latter might even be more important than the young productive first line forward given all the struggles of the defense.

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It's tough to take, just 4 games ago things were promising, just look at the standings last week:

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That promise is gone after going 0-2-2 and the Caps winning all four of their last four. Here's how it looks as of today:

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There's always the possibility the Rangers could pass the Penguins as well, but it seems unlikely. Even though the teams play two more times (tomorrow in New York, then the regular season finale on Sunday April 9), being up 6 points plus a game in hand is almost insurmountable, even with Pittsburgh in something of a tailspin lately.

Regardless of that, health is all that matters. The Penguins need Malkin and Letang (and Guentzel, and Hainsey and Maatta and Daley and Hagelin) back for the second season. Even though the path is starting to be defined as Columbus up first, no matter who it would be they'll need their top team back in order to